Mt 22:1-14, the Parable of the Wedding Feast
Recently on my personal blog I finished a series of articles dealing with the divine accountability of the Christian. The series is entitled:
So you're born again... but will you walk with Jesus in white?
Here are the links:
For the most part it deals with evidence supporting an interpretation of the "wedding garment" (and other details) found in the parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14).
The following is an excerpt from Zane C. Hodges from his book, Grace in Eclipse concerning this very parable, and I believe that it goes good with my series.
... it is to the wedding supper itself, and not merely to the kingdom as such, that the call is extended. That certainly implies a saving belief in the message about the King's Son. But it involves more that that. It involves also a willingness to be His disciple, to love righteousness and hate wickedness as He did, to take up our own cross as He took up His.
In short, it involves a willingness to enter the kingdom prepared for its special privileges. It means coming to the wedding properly dressed! ...But when the king came in to see [or, observe] the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless (Matt 22:11-12).
Naturally, some have thought that the garment lacked by the man in question was a "robe of righteousness" which the king would have given him freely. But the parable itself does not suggest this. Indeed, it seems not to have been the custom in those days [see Joachim Jeremas, The Parables of Jesus, revised ed., p 65]. The invitation to attend was freely given, but the one who accepted the call took it upon himself to obtain and wear suitable attire.
This man, then, had failed to carry out an obligation which his acceptance of the King's invitation placed upon him. It is surely not hard for the Christian reader to detect in the appearance of the king, who then "observes" the assembled guests, another clear reference to the day of accounting which lies ahead for every Christian. In that day our garments -- our life and its works -- will come under God's scrutiny and evaluation.
To be sure, we have also accepted an invitation to live in God's kingdom. That destiny can be ours by simple faith alone and is never subject at all to divine review. But to set foot on the pathway of Christian living is to hear God's call to the highest privileges which eternity affords. It is to respond to the challenge to become joint-heirs with the King and to enter richly into His special joys. But before the celebration begins, there must come the review!
The next words are solemn:Then the king said to the servants, "Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:13-14).
Solemn yes! But not so grim as they are usually made out to be. Most Christian readers identify the "outer darkness" as a description of hell. They would be surprised to learn that the Greek phrase employed here is used only three times, all in Matthew (8:12; 22:13; 25:30), and nowhere else in the New Testament... They might idiomatically be rendered "the darkness outside."
Here one must keep firmly in mind that we are dealing with a parable filled with symbolic elements. The man's hands and feet are bound, the Lord reports. But no one takes this binding literally, even if it is thought that an unsaved man is in view. Indeed, the wedding garment he lacks is not literal, nor for that matter is the wedding supper itself.
The Savior's parable is a magnificent metaphor. It visualizes the kingly joys of God's Son under the familiar Old Testament image of a wedding celebration (see again Psalm 45!). The invited guests are called to participate in these joys, and their wedding garments are symbols of their successful efforts to prepare themselves for these.
But the man who lacked the garment was unprepared for such special privileges. His activities in the kingdom of God thus come under severe restriction as his hands and feet are bound. Like the servant who hid the mina (Luke 19:26), the man is not allowed to be active for his Lord in the experience of joint heirship. The "darkness outside" is a powerful, evocative image for the exclusion he experiences as a result.
There is no suggestion here of punishment or torment. The presence of remorse, in the form of weeping and gnashing of teeth, does not in any way require this inference. Indeed, what we actually see in the image itself is a man soundly "trussed up" out on the darkened grounds of the king's private estate, while the banquet hall glows with light and reverberates with the joys of those inside. That is what we actually see. And that is all!
But that is enough! We do not need to embellish the parable with the lurid colors of eternal damnation. There is no fire and brimstone on the king's handsome estate, no worms of corruption creeping out from under the boulders of his well-kept grounds. This is what has been read into the story. But it isn't there. A parable, after all, has its natural limits and these we must be careful not to breach.
We are not to deduce, either, that the failing Christian will spend an anguished eternity in some dark corner of God's kingdom with nothing meaningful at all to do. That, too, would be a grotesque distortion of our Lord's teaching.
No, it is enough to say that the failing Christian has missed a splendid experience of co-reigning with Christ, with all the multiplied joys which that experience implies. It is enough to affirm that eh undergoes a significant exclusion from the "light and gladness, joy and honor" (see Est 8:16) which the co-heirs experience with Christ. Whatever else eternity holds for him, he has at least missed that!
If he can view such a loss with equanimity now, our Lord makes it clear that he will not view it that way hereafter: "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (The Greek = "Weeping and gnashing of teeth will be there.") The servant who is "tied up" in the darkness outside the wedding hall will be deeply remorseful over the loss he has suffered. In that situation, he weeps and gnashes his teeth.
Therefore, the unfaithful Christian, like the ill-dressed guest, has missed the wedding supper just as surely as did those who spurned the invitation to begin with. So he joins the crowded ranks of the many who are called to co-heirship and misses the elite number of the few who actually attain it. And that is certainly worth weeping about!
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